3. Can Alain Vigneault build on his 2020 successes?
In a weird twist of fate that feels like a holdover from 2020, Alain Vigneault is suddenly the longest-tenured head coach in the City of Brotherly Love after watching his Eagles counterpart, Doug Pederson, get handed his walking papers three years removed from winning the Super Bowl.
While Doc Rivers is technically the most tenured head coach in the city, having overseen 1,816 games since making his debut with the Orlando Magic in 1999, he’s only been a member of the Sixers organization since October. The same goes for Joe Girardi over at Citizens Bank Park. Despite having been hired in the same year as Vigneault, he’s coached nine fewer regular-season games and was technically hired roughly six months later.
With Vigneault now effectively a South Philly institution, how will he build upon his impressive first season?
Returning roughly the same roster as the 2019-20 season, the Flyers should conceivably be pretty well-positioned to succeed right out of the gates, especially in the new East Division.
Facing off against a slate of teams they dominated pretty handily in the 2019-20 regular season – plus the Boston Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres but minus the Carolina Hurricanes and the Columbus Blue Jackets – the Flyers should have no trouble running up the score on teams like the Devils, Sabres, and Rangers all the while competing feverishly against top-tier teams like the Caps, Bruins, and Islanders.
In 2019-20, the Flyers had a combined 13-8 record against their new division foes, signifying a very real opportunity for Vigneault’s squad to do some damage in both the regular season and the first two rounds of intradivision playoff hockey.
If Vigneault can continue to optimize his top-six, weather the storm of losing Matt Niskanen, and coach up players like James van Riemsdyk to bounce-back seasons, the Flyers could be the top seed in the East once more and maybe even make their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 2010.